Situated on a vast plot of heritage agricultural land, the Centre for Food is a vibrantly hued building in the rapidly expanding town of Whitby, Ontario. As strip malls and big box chains move in, the 3,150-square-metre facility – with its mix of volumes clad in various textures and tones – marks the area’s agrarian past while also symbolizing a modern approach to culinary education. It was designed by Gow Hastings Architects, the firm behind two Toronto culinary schools – the Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and the George Brown College School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts – among other renowned educational projects.
The building features a bright, open atrium that also serves as an event space. On one side, a two-storey plant wall bursts with edible herbs; on the other, a wine-tasting venue and a baking lab are tucked into the first floor. Downstairs, there’s a 150-seat lecture and demonstration theatre, while upstairs are the teaching kitchens; here workstations roll on casters so that instructors can rearrange the rooms according to the lessons. The architects used marble, Corian and stainless steel – hard-wearing, germ-resistent materials – but also imbued the interiors with warm woods and natural tones. Glass partitions throughout the building allow for glimpses throughout, from classroom to kitchen to atrium.
This tailored feel and fun voyeurism is best appreciated in Bistro ’67, the open-to-the-public restaurant on the second floor, which features bamboo light pendants and wood-lined walls and flooring. Here, diners can watch students prepare their food on real-time monitors, students can gauge patrons’ reactions, and even passersby on the highway can glimpse all of the action through the low-E, fritted glazing.
But the best is yet to come. In the second phase of the project, the architects will expand the landscape where students in the horticulture program have already begun to plant – fruit orchards, farm fields and greenhouses are all part of the harvest. The building itself will be fitted with PV panels, insulated with a green roof and topped by an apiary for honey production. Now that’s dessert.